Need to make Oscars more inclusive rises, honouring audio describers can be a start
Oscars 2019 concluded last Monday. Talented artists and technicians from international cinema were honoured at the world's most prestigious award ceremony. Even though there are many discussions about inclusion in cinema, disabled categories are sidelined in most international film festivals and award functions including the Oscars. Audio describers are one amongst them.
Audio description, most commonly referred as visual description is an additional track that is intended primarily for blind and visually impaired audience. It helps them to get a detailed and better idea of what is happening on-screen. Movie watching experience becomes more fun for blind and visually impaired people with the help of these audio descriptions because you get descriptions of the settings and even about what the actor's outfits are! In fact, it is an inevitable aspect for a blind movie-goer.
People from blind community point out that there must be an exclusive category to award audio describers who make movie watching experience enriching for blind audience.
Maitreya Shah, who is blind, is a Disability Rights Activist and a law student. Shah says that adding audio describers in the award category is a great way to promote inclusion.
Audio descriptions are something that is quite difficult to deliver. It must be set precisely because too much of it can spoil your movie watching experience. Audio descriptions have to be accurate without any unwanted information. It has to be within time loops and must not overlap as well. For the past couple of years, there has been an increasing demand to add an exclusive category for audio describers for award functions. That is one way of making such events more diverse. A documentary on menstruation received award at the recent Oscars which is also a great way of accepting diversity. I believe audio describers must be felicitated at Indian award functions too. After all, they are the ones who make movie experience enriching to blind and visually impaired audience-Maitreya Shah, Disability Rights Activist
For a blind or visually impaired audience, audio descriptions are as important as cinematography or editing of a film. People with vision will be surprised by the way how audio descriptions can turn out. In fact, they can understand and analyze many parts of the film through audio descriptions, parts that they might have missed. In western countries, there are many people with vision who switch over to audio descriptions while cooking or driving.
Even though audio description began as an accessibility aid, it is more or less an art in itself. That is precisely the reason why it must be honoured and accepted at art festivals.
Simran Chawla is a blind beauty queen. She is yet to watch a movie with audio descriptions. But Chawla says that it is a great initiative which she would love to try out.
"Audio descriptions seem so interesting. You can watch a movie without asking the person who is with you about what is happening on-screen. You also get a detailed description about what they are wearing and about the settings as well. It is amazing. It is high time that such an art is honoured", says Chawla.